Dream On …

Today is Monday, March 31, 2014. It is the 90th day of the year. There are 275 days remaining until the end of the year.

“The world stands aside,” said David Jordan, “to let anyone pass who knows where he is going.” This applies to those, who learn where they are going late in life as well as for the young.

At age 40, James Michener published his first book. He authored more than 50 titles – 26 historical fiction novels, 31 nonfiction books, and 13 of his works were adapted into TV mini series or made into movies.

At age 53, Margaret Thatcher became Britain’s first female prime minister.

At age 65, Winston Churchill became British prime minister for the first time and started the epic struggle against Hitler. Churchill received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 at age 79 for his many published works, especially his six-volume set The Second World War. He wrote the six volume set when he was in his 70s without any assistance or ghost writers. The photo is of Sir Winston Churchill.

At age 69, Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States. He served two terms. He was 77 years old when he completed his second term in office.

At age 70 and again at 80, former President of the USA George H.W. Bush parachuted out of an airplane.

At age 72, Golda Meir became prime minister of Israel.

At age 75, Ed Delano of California bicycled 3100 miles in 33 days to attend his 50th college reunion in Worcester, Massachusetts.

At age 80, Grandma Moses, who had started painting in her late 70s, had her first one-woman exhibit.

At age 80, Winston Churchill returned to the House of Commons as a member of parliament and also exhibited 62 of his paintings.

At age 81, Benjamin Franklin skillfully mediated between disagreeing factions at the U. S. Constitutional Convention.

At age 96, George C. Selbach scored a 110-yard hole-in-one at Indian River, Michigan.

On his 100th birthday, ragtime pianist Eubie Blake exclaimed, “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”

How about you? Have you slowed down, packed it in, given up, and checked out? Have you given up on your dreams? Don’t give up. Dream on!

I know the Heavenly Father has something wonderful still in store for you! It’s never too late. Why don’t you call God up and ask Him what that might be. His number is found in The Bible in Jeremiah 33:3. It reads, “Call upon Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know!”

Picture Source: Churchill V sign HU 55521.jpg This artistic work created by the United Kingdom Government is in the public domain. This is because it is one of the following: 1) It is a photograph created by the United Kingdom Government and taken prior to 1 June 1957; or 2) It was commercially published prior to 1961; or 3) It is an artistic work other than a photograph or engraving (e.g. a painting) which was created by the United Kingdom Government prior to 1961.

March 26, 2014

Way back in 1969 I was in the eleventh grade. Let me share an experience I had with the school counselor.

“Why can’t I be a writer or author?” Those were words I spoke as I mustered all the manhood I had as an eleventh grader to keep from crying as my high school guidance counselor told me that becoming a writer or author wasn’t an acceptable vocational option for a man.

The school counselor answers, “Jimmie, you’re a guy. You’ll need a trade or college degree in engineering, accounting, or teaching to support your future wife and children. You need to forget that silly notion that a man could ever support a family writing. It’s okay to have writing as a hobby, but you’ll never earn a living doing it. You’ll need a real job.”

The words broke my heart. My parents had raised me to believe I could do anything. My Sunday school teacher and youth pastor had taught me God had an amazing plan for my life. Up to this point, I believed it. After the counselor’s words, I wasn’t so sure.

Several years later, I was a seminary student. One day in chapel, I heard a sermon about a man with an unusual name, Mephibosheth. He was lame in both feet. He had a disability, an affliction. I learned he faced many challenges, sorrows, and problems. In spite of this, he didn’t know the king of Israel was about to bless his life. The most powerful man in all of Israel, King David went out of his way to bless someone others viewed as unworthy. Our King of kings, our great Lord Almighty desires to do the same for us.

Have you been told your dream of writing is just that a dream? Maybe you’ve been told you haven’t experienced life enough to write, that you’re too young to write, or that the competition is too great? You may be dealing with feelings of doubt, think if only you had a MFA or if your family or spouse supported you more, or maybe you think it’s too late – you’re just too old. If only … Let’s face it, at times we all face challenges and difficulties in our lives that make us feel unworthy to serve the Lord. As Christian writers, we serve the Lord with our writing.

We may feel there is no way God could use us. We dwell on negative thoughts. We focus on why we can’t. We feel it’s too hard or the chances of getting published are stacked against us. I want you to stop those I cannot do it thoughts. Think about the things you and God can do.

Remember, God doesn’t look at our exteriors, our limitations, or our failures. He looks at His flawless creation – that’s you! God says, “I can use you; I want to use you.”
We should live in this truth. Don’t let anyone or anything including self-doubt stand in your way of serving our great King of Kings and Lord of Lords! If he has called you to write, He will provide the platform, publisher and audience/readers. He’s also a big enough God to take care of your financial and emotional needs.

My name is not a household name as a writer. I do not support myself writing. Thirty years ago last month my first magazine article was published. I was paid 2½ cents a word. Since I sold the first article in 1981, I have had many articles and poems published. You can see a partial listing of my work at http://jimmiekepler.com/publications-and-poems/. I have have hundreds rejected. I have had a nonfiction book initially accepted and then killed when an editor changed. I have a historical fiction book that’s been rejected a couple of times and yet I keep on submitting while writing the next book. I am a regular contributing book reviewer for a national magazine.

What can I say? I love to write and read. I writing is your thing, ignore the negative thinkers, and trust God and write!

Road Trip to the University of Texas McDonald Observatory

McDonald Observatory
McDonald Observatory

In October 1974, I made my first trip to the University of Texas McDonald Observatory. It was 500 miles one-way from the campus of the University of Texas at Arlington (UT Arlington) to Fort Davis, Texas. I went to do the required astronomical labs for my physics class in astronomy.

The trip was a caravan from the UT Arlington campus to far west Texas. We departed about 2 PM on Friday, October 4, 1974. We headed from Arlington west on Interstate 20 (yes it was built way back then). We drove to Lake Colorado City State Park about 3 miles south of Interstate 20 just southwest of Colorado City, Texas. I pitched my tent. I shared the tent with 4 young women and one young man that were fellow cadets in the UT Arlington ROTC program. Three of them were prior service (US military veterans).

The next morning we got up early and headed west. We stopped at a Stuckey’s (remember them?) getting two scrambled eggs with toast and bacon or sausage plus coffee for under a dollar. The journey continued to Pecos, Texas. There we left Interstate 20 and headed south on Texas Highway 17. We crossed Interstate 10 at Balmorhea, Texas and head south to Fort Davis. We camped at the Davis Mountains State Park.

That weekend the park also hosted a retreat for the Odessa, Texas Jaycees. Some of them were concerned that we had males and females staying in the same tent. I got a strong morals lecture from a Baptist deacon. It mattered not we were all of legal age.

That Saturday, October 5, 1974 a very good top five ranked Texas A & M football team was upset by Kansas University loosing 28 to 10. We listened to the game on the radio as we explored the city of Alpine, Texas and toured the Fort Davis National Historic site. I’ve actually been there more times than any national park or historic site with the exception of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Why more to the Smokeys? My brother-in-law is a retired Great Smoky Mountain Park Ranger.

We drove to the McDonald’s Observatory in the early afternoon to check-in and get ready for the night’s observations. We returned that night for one of the most memorable evenings of my life.

The McDonald Observatory is an astronomical observatory located. It is located just northwest of Fort Davis, Texas, on Mount Locke in the Davis Mountains of West Texas. It is the property of the University of Texas at Austin.

The McDonald Observatory was the first location on earth to bounce a laser off a reflector left on the moon by Apollo astronauts. I learned this on my road trip.

I also learned the high and dry peaks of the Davis Mountains make for some of the darkest and clearest night skies in the region and provide excellent conditions for astronomical research. It is one of the darkest places on earth at night. I can vouch for it being dark and more stars being visible than you could count in a lifetime.

UT McDonald Observatory

I have been back many times since that first trip in 1974. I took my two sons there on dad-son vacation when they were 13 and 10 years old. Since then they have built an excellent visitor center.

The trip back to the University of Texas at Arlington was a long one. We drove back on US 67. It was 500 miles on a two lane highway. On the return trip I stopped and visited my parents at their ranch northwest of Brownwood, Texas.

McDonald Observatory

It was on the 1974 trip I decided to ask Benita Breeding to marry me. I proposed the next week and we married on December 28, 1974.

Photo Credits: Jimmie A. Kepler took the photographs in May 2007. The photographs are available for use under the Creative Commons License listed below.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The Last Time I Hitchhiked


Spring break 1974 was the last time I hitchhiked. By then it was going out of vogue. Drivers viewed picking up a stranger as a risk. It was in the mid 1970’s that we learned some people picked up hitchhikers to do harm to them. They would rape and kill them. Had I know that I would have never stuck my thumb up and hitched a ride, but I did. Here is that story.

The story of the last ride I hitched is straightforward. It was spring break 1974. The effects of the Arab Oil Embargo that was put in place during the Yom Kippur War of late 1973 were taking effect. Due to shortages, cars and their drivers lined up at service stations to get gasoline. The traditional full service station became extend during this period. Sometimes you had to wait days to fill up your car’s tank.

March of 1974 found me completing my junior year at The University of Texas at Arlington. Fortunately, I lived adjacent to the campus. This meant I could walk or ride my ten-speed bicycle to class. More and more frequently, I opted for my ten-speed as my preferred method of transportation.

During this same time, Interstate 20 (I-20) was under construction across south Arlington, Texas. Lake Joe Poole was a future development dream.

I was dating my future wife. She was a senior in high school. She lived in DeSoto, Texas 25 mile away. The Tuesday of her spring break, I decided to ride my bike to her house. I left the campus of UT Arlington and head south until I ran into the construction on the future I-20. There I go on the new concrete roadway and headed east several miles until I got to Belt Line Road in Dallas County. There I again headed south. Belt Line Road in just a few short years would be under Lake Joe Poole’s water. There was a huge mountain to go up. My ten-speed zipped up with great ease. As I continued riding past all the television broadcast towers in Cedar Hill, Texas, I quickly crossed the then two lane US Highway 67. Belt Line Road intersected just east of US 67 with Texas Farm Road 1382.

The ride on my ten-speed from Cedar Hill to DeSoto was only five miles. Unfortunately, about hallway between the two towns the rear axle on the bicycle broke. A broken rear axle is bad. It meant I could not ride a bike because the rear wheel would no longer turn.

I had to car the ten-speed the last two plus miles. It was a hot March day with temperatures in the middle 80 degrees. I was not very smart in my travels as I had only one one-quart canteen of water with me. It soon was gone.

I arrived at Miss Benita’s house. She was happy to see me. Her eleventh grade sister was not happy I had invaded their space. They could not believe I had ridden my bike 25 miles. They were even more concerned, well at least Miss Benita was, about how I would get back to college. I remember making a fist with my right hand and extending my thumb.

The girls were afraid of hitchhiking. I seemed very scary to them. From 1967 to 1972, I thumbed many rides. It was still an accepted method of travel.

Well, I chained my bike to their chain-linked fence. I walked down to the Fina gasoline station. Joe Castle owned the business. He asked where my car was. I told my sad tale. He carried me to Cedar Hill and wished me luck. He made sure I had a cold Dr. Pepper.

At Cedar Hill I no more than got out of the Castles old American Rambler station wagon and took my place at the side of Farm Road 1382 (FM 1382), thumb extends this time trying to go north than a Jeep stopped and gave me a ride.

It was a machinist headed for his swing shift at Ling Tempco Vought (LTV) Aeronautics in Grand Prairie, Texas. He let me out where FM 1382 crossed the Pioneer Parkway that was also called Spur 303. He used to be in the US Air Force. That is where he learned his trade of building airplanes. He tossed me a Coca Cola as they left me at the side of the road.

I was not waiting even two minutes when a Chevrolet Camaro stopped. As they rolled down the window, two girls about my age greeted me. “Hey, aren’t you in our English class?” were the first words they said. They followed with “You’re one of those ROTC guys, aren’t you?” The both had an open can of Old Milwaukee beer. The hollered for me to get. The girl who was riding shotgun got out, had me get in and them just sat in my lap. They replaced my Coca-Cola with a beer. We zoomed down Pioneer Parkway until we got to Cooper Street in Arlington. We turned north and head to the campus. They took me to my apartment. They didn’t drop me off. They came in where we listened to the stereo and did what college kids did.

The return trip to my apartment took me about 20 minutes less time than riding the ten-speed t my girlfriend’s house had taken. I still am amazed.

I haven’t hitched a ride since that March day in 1974.

March 20, 2014

church fireThis Day In Texas History:

Today is Thursday, March 20, 2014. It is the 79th day of the year. There are 286 days remaining until the end of the year. Typically, the first day of Spring begins as March equinox falls on this date, marking the vernal point in the Northern Hemisphere and the autumnal point in the Southern Hemisphere, when both day and night are of equal length.

Church on Fire:

I wrote this piece twenty-six years ago. I was associate pastor at First Baptist Church of Jasper, Texas at the time. I had just been to Beaumont, Texas making hospital rounds where I visited sick church members.

My ultimate goal was to drive north on Texas Highway 92 until it intersected US Highway 190 just west of Dam B. There I would turn east and drive home to Jasper. I had just left Silsbee, Texas heading toward Fred, Texas when I first saw it in on the horizon.

From more than fifteen miles away, the smoke could be seen rising nearly ten thousand feet above the tall pine trees and dogwood. It’s gray-blue plum acted as a beacon saying something is happening here. But what? But exactly where?

Was someone burning trash? No, the amount of smoke was too great.

Was it a raging forest fire? Possibly, but if so it was only in an embryonic stage.

Was the smoke the signal of a controlled burn by one of the timber companies? Possibly, but yet the signals just did not look correct.

As I continued driving for miles. As I was leaving Fred, Texas a number of vehicles were assembling in the distance. The closer I got, the more recognizable the cars and trucks became. The wind changed and the smoke pushed its deadly midnight momentarily across the highway.

As I got nearer, I saw no flames. Smoke was gushing out the doors and windows of a small framed building. It was erupting in a deadly, black, thickness through the roof.

The Church in the Pines was dying from fire and smoke inhalation.

March 19, 2014

Today in Texas History:

Today is March 19, 2014. It is the 78th day of the year.

On this date in March 19 Isidro Félix de Espinosa began his career as a Franciscan. Isidro Félix de Espinosa was born in Querétaro, Mexico, on November 26, 1679. His parents were Isidro de Espinosa and Gertrudis de Miraelrio Tovar. Espinoza had nine brother, of which only six of them lived to adulthood. On March 18, 1696, Isidro Félix de Espinosa joined the College of Santa Cruz de Querétaro, and March 19, 1697, he began his career as a Franciscan. On December 17, 1703 Espinoza received holy orders and 26 February of that same year he became a priest. Espinosa is thought likely that he was assigned to Mission San Juan Bautista at the end of 1703 or shortly thereafter.

On April 5, 1709, Espinosa, accompanied by Father Antonio de Olivares, Captain Pedro de Aguirre, and fourteen soldiers, left San Juan Bautista for address to the future San Antonio. Here, the Franciscans were impressed by the availability of water and the prospects of Spanish settlement. Expedition Espinosa, Aguirre Olivares and moved past the San Antonio River to the Colorado River of Texas, where they hoped to contact Hasinais who whispered that they had moved there. On this trip Espinosa also encountered Yojuanes and their allies the Simonis and the Tusonibi who tried to convince Espinos and his associates to come to their villages along the Rio Brazos but failed in this endeavor. Espinosa did not go to the villages of the Yojuane.

Espinosa and associates also failed to contact any natives on the Colorado River. The expedition returned to St. John the Baptist on April 28, 1709. Espinosa soon returned to Querétaro and he remained there until he was named President of new missions were established in the University Mission Texas. In 1716 he accompanied the expedition of Domingo Ramón, where he established three missions Querétaro in East Texas: Our Father San Francisco de los Teja, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, and San Jose de los Nazonis.

Espinosa missionary activities in Texas included participation in two other expeditions, Martín de Alarcón (1718) and Marques of San Miguel de Aguayo (1721). In late 1721, Espinosa was renamed as the guardian of Texas Missionary University and he never returned to the province. In 1733 he was named President of the future Hospice of San Fernando in Mexico city. In the last years of his life he returned to the University of Santa Cruz in Querétaro, where he died on February 14, 1755.

His contributions as a chronicler of the early history of Texas are without peer. He was called “El Julio Cesar de la Fé en Nueva España (The Julio Cesar of Faith in New Spain)” because he worked during the day and wrote by night. Espinosa left a remarkable collection of literature. This includes a biography of his friend, Antonio Margil of Jesus and the Chronicle of the Colleges of Propaganda Fide of New Spain, called “the most important contemporary achievement Franciscans in Texas”, the work was reprinted in 1964.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isidro_de_Espinosa and http://www.tshaonline.org/day-by-day/30646

March 18, 2014

Today in Texas History:

Today is March 18, 2014. It is the 77th day of the year. There are 288 days remaining until the end of the year. On March 18, 1937 the New London School explosion occurred. It was caused by a natural gas leak caused an explosion, destroying the London School of New London, Texas. It is located in Rusk County previously known as “London”. The disaster killed more than 295 students and teachers. It is the deadliest school disaster in American history. As of 2014, the event is the third deadliest disaster in the history of Texas, after the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, and the 1947 Texas City Disaster.



A Poem: 

Tin to Gold

The iniquity of my transgression is sin.
I am ashamed, afraid of God’s judgment, scandalized.
Why did I disobey your commandments?
The iniquity of my transgression is sin.
Instead of gold, I settled for tin.
You saved my soul, turned tin to gold, yet I still recall,
The iniquity of my transgression is sin.
I am ashamed, afraid of God’s judgment, scandalized.

by Jimmie A. Kepler
March 2004

The poetic form is call a triolet.

March 17, 2014

Frank Buck
Frank Buck

On This Day in Texas History:

On this day in 1884, Frank “Bring ‘Em Back Alive” Buck was born in Gainesville, Texas. He was a hunter and “collector of wild animals,” as well as a movie actor, director, writer and producer. He traveled the world catching and shipping exotic animals to zoos and circuses. He wrote at least seven books. The best known of the books is “Bring ‘Em Back Alive”. He is also known for his 1930s and 40s jungle adventure movies including Wild Cargo, Jungle Cavalcade, Jacare, Killer of the Amazon, many of which included staged “fights to the death” between formidable beasts. Mr. Buck died of lung cancer in Houston on March 25, 1950.

Saint Patrick’s Day:

Dallas has a Saint Patrick’s Day Parade on Greenville Avenue. It has 90 floats and more than 125,000 people in attendance. This year the parade was on Saturday, March 15. The parade began at Greenville at Blackwell Street and ends at SMU Boulevard.

St Patrick's Day, Dallas, TX.
St Patrick’s Day, Dallas, TX.

Photo Credit:

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

w:en:Creative Commons

Description: Dallas, Texas
Date: 16 March 2012, 21:04:07
Source: Flickr: skyline – st. patrick’s day
Author: adrian valenzuela

March 14, 2014

Jack Ruby
Jack Ruby

This Day in Texas History:

It is Friday March 14, 2014. It is the 73rd day of 2014. There are 292 days left in the year. It was 50 years ago today that Jack Ruby was convicted of the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald. Less than four months earlier, back on November 24, 1963, Ruby had shot and killed Oswald. Lee Harvey Oswald was the accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy. The shooting took place on live national television in the basement of the Dallas City Jail.

I find it amazing that the trial and conviction happened so quickly – less than four months after the crime. Most people don’t know the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Jack Ruby’s conviction. Mr. Ruby was awaiting a retrial when he died in prison in 1967. Ruby always denied he was part of a conspiracy. He stated until his death that he shot Oswald on impulse from grief and outrage over his concern for Jackie and the kids, referring to President Kennedy’s widow.

My Memories:

I was living at 803 Jefferson Avenue in Seguin, Texas when John Kennedy was assassinated. I was a fifth grade student at Jefferson Avenue Elementary School. I saw Ruby shoot Oswalt. It was craziness on television and the world felt out of control to me. My father was in South Vietnam at the time. He was in the United States Air Force. We were proud that Texas Lyndon Johnson was the new president as we had no doubt he could lead the country and protect us from the Soviet Union. Mostly, I remember being sad about the entire assassination.

Photo Credit: Image can be found at http://www.history-matters.com/archive/archive_holdings.htm Originated from the report of the Warren Commission a US Government report. From WH Vol.18 p.32, detail. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code. See Copyright.

March 13, 2014

Texas Gazette. Saturday, March 13, 1830.
Texas Gazette. Saturday, March 13, 1830.

This Day in Texas History:

It is Thursday March 13, 2014. It is the 72th day of 2014. There are 293 days left in the year. Today we will look at a poem published in the March 13, 1830 issue of “The Texas Gazette”. It is in the upper left column of the paper. The Texas Gazette. (Austin, Tex.), Vol. 1, No. 13, Ed. 1, Saturday, March 13, 1830. Click on the picture and it will enlarge where you can clearly read it.

The sun was up, the wind blew mild,
All nature seem’d to wear a smile,
When William, with gun, repair’d,
Toward the Rio San Bernard,
In quest of game of speed or flight,
For his and Mary’s meat that night.

Long William toil’d, ere he could find,
An object tit—it was the hind,
When back in eagerness he drew
The cock, and then pull’d trigger too,
When ere the smoke had clear’d his eyes,
His wish’d for dead did deer did arise.

To loading his gun again,
The anxious huntsman then began,
But the first ball and patching drew,
And this before he’s charg’d her too,
“When lest” said he, “I lose some time,
I think of it, and now I’ll prime.”

The last maneuver was shot pan,
Meanwhile the deer before him stands,
“Oh, now you’re mine,” said William, low,
if my old gun don’t snap or blow;”
But when the flint and steel had clash’d,
what think you! William’s gun it flash’s.

In haste, our hunter had forgot,
To put in powder or the shot,
He sighted on an empty gun,
Which flash’d, and then the deer did run;
And Will retun’d to Mary’s seat,
Without a single piece of meat.

The story amounts to this,
As all my readers will insist,
That William’s powder, patch and ball,
Were not put in the gun at all,
As if they suffer’d much from drought,
He’d place the whole load in his mouth.

Citation: Cotten, Godwin Brown, editor. The Texas Gazette. (Austin, Tex.), Vol. 1, No. 13, Ed. 1, Saturday, March 13, 1830, Newspaper, March 13, 1830; digital images, (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth80040/ : accessed March 11, 2014), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, Austin, Texas.